SHAMBHAVI MUDRA - Meditation with Half-Open Eyes

Meditation is often practiced with eyes closed. But it can also be done with eyes half-open and focused within, by following a well guarded technique of yogi-s and tantric-s, called Shambhavi mudra.

Literally, the word ‘mudra’, means, seal, sign, badge, symbolic gestures or parched grain, in different contexts. However in esoteric practices, it has a specific meaning and relevance, associated with worship, dancing, postures or mindful attention. Shambhavi mudra is a divine method of gazing inward to remove mental distractions, of sojourning into the depths of one’s being with internalized attention, and of opening oneself to nature’s higher forces.

This mudra is named after Shambhavi or Parvati (sometime identified as Durga), the consort of Lord Shiva. Shambhavi symbolizing Shakti, the divine energy, propels existence. Her manifestation in the human being is best realized through this mudra, which rests on the praxis of identity between the macrocosm and microcosm.

Shakti lies dormant at the base of the spine in the four-petalled psychic centre (chakra), muladhara( mula = root; adhara = support). In its awakened state, it moves through sushumna nadi, conduit of Shambhavi shakti, as mentioned by Svatmarama yogi in his 14th century work, Hathayoga pradipika ( IV.18). It pierces the subtle centres – svadhishthana, manipura, anahata,vishuddha and ajna – one after another till it unites with Shiva in the sahasrara chakra , the thousand petalled lotus in the cerebral cavity. Svadhishthana chakra lies at the root of reproductive organ, manipura, in the region of the navel, anahata, in the region of the heart, vishuddha, at the base of throat, and ajna, between the eyebrows. Shambhavi also connotes the aperture in the crown of the head through which the self is believed to escape at the time of death.

According to Hathayoga Pradipika ( IV.36), Shambhavi mudra has three characteristics. The practitioner (sadhaka) is inwardly attentive to Brahman, the supreme reality. He is able to harmonize the mind and prana, the vital energy. And finally, he keeps the sight steady in a way that he appears to see everything, while in reality, he sees nothing outside, below or above.

The beginner may gaze on the tip of the nose, or fix the sight on something external like a speck of light, a black dot on white, or a natural object like the sun, moon or star, without blinking ((trataka). But advanced seekers concentrate on the space between eyebrows by rolling both eyes upwards. With practice, gazing becomes involuntary, and one experiences union with the Supreme Being (samadhi) spontaneously. Even when eyes are closed, the sadhaka is able to watch the object of focus in the inner space of his mind (chidakasha).

Shambhavi mudra is best practiced under the guidance of a guru in siddhasana ( perfect pose) or padmasana (lotus pose), with jnana mudra - the posture of hand placed on knees, in which the tip of thumb is touched with the tip of index finger. This is accompanied by rhythmic breathing (pranayama), contemplation on the Absolute reality (brahman) and chanting of the primal sound, AUM ( manasa japa).

The sadhaka undergoes a variety of experiences, depending on the rate of progress made in this mudra. He may see the sun, stars, galaxies or concentric rings of violet or yellow, or feel as if he has landed in a paradise of beauty, light and bliss. His breath slows down. Sometime he loses physical consciousness for a short while, and undergoes involuntary body movements.

‘Whatever wonderful shunya (void) or ashunya (not void) is perceived, is to be regarded as the manifestation of that great Shambhu ( Shiva), states Hathayoga pradipika ( IV.36).

Shambhavi mudra vivifies the physical, the vital, the mental and the intellectual sheaths (kosha-s) in the subtle human body (sukshma sharira), by internalizing consciousness flowing in mundane objects. As eyes, called the windows of the mind, stabilize, the vagaries of chitta, mind-stuff, are curbed automatically, and the pineal gland activated, with an increased level of awareness. When the active and passive aspects of the Supreme Reality, ie Shakti and Shiva respectively, coalesce within, the third eye of sadhaka is opened.

Shambhavi mudra increases the alpha brain waves, boosting creativity and concentration. It takes away depression and cures insomnia. Yogi-s, tantrika-s and siddha–s keep this mudra secret in accordance with the injunction in Hathayoga pradipika ( IV.340) which treats Shambhavi mudra as the one which is secluded like a respectable lady, in contrast to an ordinary woman. The Gheranda Samhita ( III.60), a late 17th century Vaishnava treatise on yoga, corroborates this view. The one who is accomplished in Shambhavi mudra is called the living embodiment of divinity (brahmarupa).

About Author: Dr Satish K Kapoor, former British Council Scholar and former Registrar, DAV University, is a noted author, educationist, historian, and spiritualist based in Jalandhar City.

This piece was first published and is courtesy The Tribune, Chandigarh.

For a very good site on Mudras visit http://www.mudravigyan.com/Mudra.html There is a lot to learn from this site by Shri Bansal. It has pictures and guidelines for mudras to improve eyesight, energy levels, prana and so on.